Farm Town Strong tackles opioid epidemic in farm communities

The American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union have joined forces to launch a new awareness campaign called “Farm Town Strong,” to highlight the opioid epidemic’s impact on U.S. farming communities and to provide resources and support for those affected by the crisis.

A recent survey sponsored by the two organizations found that 50 percent of rural Americans say they have been directly impacted by opioid abuse.

That percentage jumped to 74, however, among farmers and farm workers. Three in four farmers said it would be easy for someone in their communities to access opioids illegally.

“Farm country has been hit hard by the opioid crisis—even harder than rural America as a whole, or big cities,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “It’s going to take everyone working together to combat this crisis to make a difference.”

The survey was described as the first step in a collaboration by the two sponsor organizations.

“Opioid addiction, along with all of its consequences, is a silent but very real crisis for our farming communities,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The lack of services, treatment and support exacerbates the issue in rural areas, and the negative stigma associated with addiction makes it hard for farmers to discuss the problem.”

The Farm Town Strong campaign includes a new website, farmtownstrong.org, and a social media campaign that uses the hashtag #FarmTownStrong.

Johnson and Duvall led a discussion on overcoming the opioid crisis at the recent 2018 AFBF Annual Convention in Nashville, Tenn.

Duvall said what’s important about Farm Town Strong is that “if we can get people to open up, and if we can get people to talk about it, and get the awareness of it, then we can get them some help.”

Nationwide, he noted, “we have 2,700 counties that have Farm Bureaus there. And what if each one of them empowered themselves as being the loving neighbors that we would if someone got hurt by a cow, and we went and did their work for them? Look what a difference we could make. If we save just one farmer’s family from being destroyed by this, it’s well worth the effort they are putting into this.”

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